Siliva Havili was set to hang up the boots and begin his career as a podiatrist until the Canberra Raiders came calling.
Now he wants to repay the faith the club has placed in him since getting his foot in the door.
Raiders hooker Siliva Havili wants to repay the faith the club has shown in him.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong
Havili has a vastly different role going into the Green Machine's season opener against the Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
A year ago, he had to fill the massive boots of Josh Hodgson as the Raiders' starting hooker.
This trip to the Gold Coast he'll come off the bench, providing cover for Hodgson if the England rake needs a chop out, but he can also play at lock as a ball-playing bulldog.
He'll form part of a young Raiders bench along with debutants Corey Horsburgh and Ryan Sutton.
Havili has impressed Canberra coach Ricky Stuart so much, he not only won the race with Craig Garvey to cover Hodgson, but he earned himself a two-year contract extension as well.
Now he wants to get one over his former teammate Shannon Boyd, who'll line up for the Titans for the first time since leaving Canberra.
"I've definitely come a long way when I do look back at it," Havili said.
"The year before last year I didn't know what I was doing so to be in this position I'm really grateful and want to repay the faith to the Raiders and I can do that by playing good footy and representing the club as best as I can.
"This year is a different role. I need to up my game a bit more and show what I can do from off the bench and add something from the bench when I get on the field. A different role to last year, but I'm looking forward to it."
It's not just Stuart's eye Havili has caught.
NRL premiership-winning-hooker Michael Ennis has liked what he's seen of the Tongan No.9 since he started working with the Raiders a month ago.
Ennis said having a versatile forward like Havili on the bench was a real luxury for the Green Machine.
"I like young Havili too. He's quite reserved at times, he's a lovely shy kid, but he's got some footy in him. He's a good little player," Fox League expert Ennis said.
"Whether it's that role of playing No.9 or coming on through the middle as a lock. He's got a great offload that causes a lot of problems to the opposition so he's handy too.
"To be able to carry someone like Havili, who can play a number of positions and play them well, is a real luxury to have.
"I thought he was terrific at times last year, coming off the bench he made a real difference. He brings a lot of energy. Those guys who are built low to the ground and are strong are hard to contain. He's a handy player."
Ennis was expecting a tough test first-up for the Raiders forward pack.
Not only have they brought big bopper Boyd on board, but Ennis was wary of a pack containing Ryan James and Jai Arrow.
Not to mention Queensland prop Jarrod Wallace.
"The Titans have got a good forward pack. If there's an area where they're really strong this year with James, Boyd, Tyrone Peachey, Jai Arrow," Ennis said.
"They'll be hard and they'll be physical through the middle so we'll need to have a good 80-minute performance through that middle."
NRL ROUND ONE
Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast, 6.10pm. Live on Fox League.
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